7 Key Lessons Area Managers Can Learn From Jurgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp - Liverpool

7 Key Lessons Area Managers Can Learn From Jurgen Klopp

7 Key Lessons Area Managers Can Learn From Jurgen Klopp

Since Jurgen Klopp took over the reins at Liverpool in 2015, the club has consistently finished in the top four of the Premier League; reached the UEFA Champion’s League final twice, including victory over Tottenham Hotspur; and won the FIFA Club World Cup. At the end of the 2018-19 season, Liverpool scored 97 points, the most points the club has scored in its history, despite narrowly missing out to Manchester City for the league trophy. This year, Liverpool is 16 points clear of Manchester City and look on course to win their first league title since 1990.

Much of this turnaround has been down to the improvement in performance of the players both as individuals and as a team. But, what has Jurgen Klopp done to produce this improvement? And what can area managers learn from this? We outline 7 key lessons learnt from Klopp’s reign at Liverpool.

7 Key Lessons:

Make sure the company is a good fit

As an area manager, it is important that you passionately believe in the company’s mission and are a good fit with the organisation’s culture, otherwise how can you bring about change and performance improvement? The reason why Jurgen Klopp joined Liverpool was that both he and the club’s board felt that they were a good cultural fit. Klopp himself felt there was connection between the club’s values and his own. As a result, he is passionate about Liverpool and genuinely wants the club to succeed. This passion drives him to bring about positive change to the club and raise its performance.

As an area manager, you need to have that same passion and understanding for the company’s culture and values so that you can be the driving force behind its success.

Learn the Game

As player/manager at Mainz, Klopp learned early on that it is difficult to have a thorough understanding of football, and how his team plays, from the dugout. So he studied tens of thousands of hours of DVD footage, studying every match from different perspectives. This helped him find problem areas in their game and developing strategies to solve them. He also looked at strategies used by other great coaches to deal with those problem areas and adapted those strategies to his own coaching style.

You can learn the game too by understanding how your company’s retail stores are run in the areas of Operations, Customer Service and Sales. You can do this by making detailed observations of the key elements that drives the performance of the business. Observing which stores have the best operational systems, who has the best customer engagement and which stores are delivering the best sales performance, from the way they greet customers as they enter the store through to the way they talk to them when helping them find a product or solve a problem. This helps you identify the areas where staff perform well and the areas that need improvement.

Set realistic goals

When he arrived at Liverpool, Klopp made it clear that the Anfield club’s turnaround won’t happen overnight. He developed a long-term plan for Liverpool’s journey back to success. In his first year, this involved improving the performance of existing players and shoring up the defence. Instead of signing in star players for the sake of it, Klopp signed them with a plan in mind, specifically to plug in gaps. For example, he signed Van Dijk and Matip to strengthen defence and Mane, Salah, and Firmino to improve the club’s goal-scoring capabilities.

Similarly, you need to be open and honest to your store teams about the challenges that lie ahead and develop a clear plan for overcoming them. This will help you determine how to improve the performance of existing staff and identify areas where new recruits are needed.

Set sales targets for your people weekly, monthly and quarterly. Ensure they are given the necessary coaching to be able to deliver their targets.

Lead by example

Another key to Klopp’s success is his genuine passion, respect, and enthusiasm for the club. He clearly shows this through his efforts in improving the experience for both players and the club’s supporters. One important aspect of this is his display of emotion towards his players and his willingness to interact with fans, young and old. One example, is his interview with 9-year-old Liverpool supporter, Isaac who teaches Klopp how to speak scouse (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZShEy8ILvg). Such emotions and gestures drive players to do the same, and get close to the fans, improving their performance off the pitch as well as on it.

The same applies to area managers. Take every opportunity to show genuine enthusiasm for the company and the way your store teams carry out their work, praising them whenever they make progress and achieve success. Also, use store visits to observe what is really happening on the retail floor. Who is customer aware and is able to engage easily with customers? Who can serve more than one customer at a time? Who is able to close and add on sales in a zero pressure manner?

Surround yourself with great people

Klopp knew from the outset for Liverpool to reach the top, the team needed to improve all aspects of their game. He recognised that he couldn’t achieve this alone so he built a coaching team around him that had superior knowledge of the different elements of the game. For example, at Liverpool, Klopp appointed assistant coaches to improve players’ performances in set pieces. He even appointed Thomas Gronnemark to coach players on their throw-ins. Improvement in these areas has increased the team’s goal scoring capabilities from set pieces. This paid off for Liverpool, scoring a staggering 22 goals from set pieces in the 2018-19 season.

This principle also works in retail. As the area manager, you are likely to have staff that will have considerable knowledge of local customers’ tastes and preferences, and which products sell well. Use that knowledge by encouraging them to provide suggestions on what areas need improving. Be open to new ideas, whether they come from your team or outside of your team, and constantly look for better ways for delivering the basics.

Understand people’s strengths and weaknesses

From the very beginning, Klopp focussed on getting to know his players, their strengths and weaknesses, and what inspires them to deliver great performances. He enabled average players to raise their game as well as acquiring big-name signings like Salah and Firmino. Klopp believed that even players with solid skills can make a contribution to a team’s overall performance. What’s more when coaching young players, he sought to understand the challenges they face and used his own life experiences to help them overcome those challenges. This coaching style allowed young players to quickly grow into the team.

This is another leaf of Klopp’s book that area managers can take out. You can go a long way in improving your retail team’s performance by discovering the strongest skills they have, and any aspects of their customer-facing role they have problems with. This then enables you to identify appropriate training and support that will allow store staff to improve on those problem areas.

Build strong team spirit

What sets Klopp apart from many other coaches is his ability to make everyone feel included. When he first arrived at Liverpool, he made the point of learning the names of all 80 employees at the club’s Melwood training ground and introduced them to his players. He also explained to the whole group that they need to help each other perform at the highest level. By doing this, Klopp broke down barriers and created unity within the club towards a common goal. He also works hard to make every player feel valued, constantly communicating with them and embracing them after every match.

An area manager can build team spirit through getting to know every individual retail team member and communicate their importance to the success of the store.  Team spirit can also be sustained through encouraging individual employees to not only raise their own performance but inspire others to raise theirs.

Football, like other sports, has always been about getting the most out of athletes, both as individuals and as a team. The same goes for retail companies. The key to customer satisfaction and ultimately, business success is making sure your team performs at the highest level.

As you will have seen in this article, there are many similarities between a football coach and an area manager in terms of the essential qualities needed to get the most out of people and to achieve success. And it is these essential qualities that we help your area managers identify in the RPS Area Managers Leadership Programme.

The programme is a 2-day workshop that teaches area managers the leadership and people skills that are essential in creating a winning area and team. You can book your people on an RPS Area Managers Performance Workshop by calling 01344 849397 or email Scott Reid scott@rps-global.com to discuss a tailored in-house programme.